It’s estimated that health clubs (or gyms) account for a 15 billion dollar a year industry with some 50 million Americans as health club members. In 1965 Gold’s Gym was founded by Joe Gold as a place for body builders to workout and in 1977 Joe Gold founded the “Worlds Gym” chain. In the 1980’s corporate gyms started to pop up all over the country (LA Fitness, Lifetime Fitness, etc). In the 1990’s the popularity of these large commercial gyms continued to grow. As they grew they catered to a large range of clients and offered a wide range of services. The commercial gyms were convenient because they had multiple treadmills and plenty of universal weight lifting equipment that could be used by both male and females of all strengths, age, and sizes. Because of the versatility of equipment and relatively affordable membership costs, these gyms grew to several thousand members.
In the 2000’s there was a shift in membership. Members of the “commercial gyms” or large “health clubs” began to leave and join what I will refer to in this article as “studio gyms”. What is a studio gym you ask; a studio gym is a smaller gym that offers personal training or a specific fitness routine to a class or group. Studio gyms are generally made up of only a few hundred members and costs vary from $75 a month to $75 a session. Some examples of different fitness studios would be a yoga studio, spin studio, boxing or mma gym, zumba studio, and of course the very popular crossfit box.
So why the big shift in membership? Why are gym members leaving a gym that offers a 20,000 square foot facility with thousand of dollars of equipment and a cheap $50 a month membership? Why would they leave and join a gym that is maybe 3500 square feet, limited equipment, and on average $150 a month membership costs? There are several answers to these questions which I will address in the following paragraphs.
Well first lets expose some of the facts about your local commercial gym that may surprise you. An estimated occupancy of the average commercial health club is 300-600 people in the building at a time. Some of the big name commercial gyms require 5000 members just to hit their operating budget. That means they hope for upwards of 6, 7, or even 10,000 members to bring in a profit for one particular location. But we know their facility calls for only a few hundred people at a time, meaning for these “health clubs” to make money they depend on signing people up that will not attend the gym regularly or at all. For these gyms to be successful they actually need clientele to not use the membership and by consequence waste their $50 a month on nothing at all. Some research shows that only 12% of health club members use their membership on a weekly basis. If you notice, these commercial gyms have huge marketing budgets. You may get several post cards, emails, etc soliciting you to join the gym. However, after you join, you no longer receive these emails, offers, etc. You are not rewarded with any loyalty programs (because after all they count on your non-attnedance). Often during peak hours (6-7pm) there are not enough machines for members. So the result is, not only are clients throwing away their money but they are not getting the desired results they had wished for when they first signed the membership. Results such as better health, weight loss, muscle gain, and etc.
Health clubs have another flaw in their system that is driving members into the “studio gyms”. If you have not worked out before or been educated on how to work out properly you have a big problem. Not only will you not know what to do but you run the risk of putting yourself in harms way by getting injured doing something improperly. If you don’t know what to do or how to do it or with what frequency/intensity to do it, how can you expect to get results. Not to mention that you just may feel uncomfortable attempting to do something in a public setting that may be completely incorrect. I always use the analogy of walking into a dance studio. I personally have no experience dancing and would feel very self conscience dancing in public. Would I pay to join a dance studio then be told “ok heres the space, go ahead and start dancing”. Absolutely not, I would be so embarrassed that I looked ridiculous. I would expect someone to teach me and show me the moves and technique before I could execute the moves properly and effectively.
Enter the “studio gym”, it completely changed the way we think of working out. Before, our gym membership entailed designing our own workouts, motivating ourself, and coming up with new ways to train on our own. The idea of having someone design a workout that was challenging and motivating, became crucial to achieving the body changes we so deeply desired. In hindsight the studio gym provides a “shared” personal trainer. After all, if you cant afford to shell out $70 an hour every time you wanted to workout, this provided the perfect opportunity to share those cost with a small group of people that have the same goals as you. Studio gyms offer a specific style of training designed to keep you from getting bored and perhaps more importantly, designed to yield real results. You no longer were a member of a gym or a stat but you are now a member of a team, a group, or a community. Whether its yoga, boxing, cross fit, or zumba you decide what workout keeps you motivated and keeps you interested. Plus now you learn and acquire a new skill. Your fitness routine has a lot more variety and you feel a sense of achievement with every fitness class completed.
In the year 2014, studio gyms are popping up on every street corner. Commercial gym members are abandoning their memberships to become part of the fitness craze and partake in a more stimulating and rewarding workout experience. Overall the general public is becoming more aware and more educated on not only fitness, but nutrition and health as well.Different workout fads come and go quickly so it will be interesting to see in 10 years what the next big workout trends will be.
Written by Chris Nissley, Knockout Fitness